Spirituality vs Religion: How Are They Different?
It is important to understand that our definition of spirituality is non-religious in nature. Religion is a communal belief system, based on a set of principles accepted as incontrovertible beliefs. Religion builds a relationship with God via texts, (i.e. the Bible) principles, and accepted beliefs. These are collectively known as dogma. Spirituality focuses on the "bigger picture." A "spiritual" person believes the connection with a transcendent being is a universal human experience, accessible from within oneself. Religion questions, "What is right or wrong?" What is true or false?" Spirituality seeks answers to the meaning, purpose, and interconnectivity of all beings. Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, researchers and authors of The Spiritual Brain, state that“spirituality means any experience that is thought to bring the experiencer into contact with the divine (in other words, not just any experience that feels meaningful).” A spiritual person may associate himself with a religion. Likewise, a religious person may have spiritual leanings.
What is a Near-Death Experience?
A near-death experience (NDE) is defined as an occurrence in which a person is either declared clinically dead, and later resuscitated, or comes very close to dying. In either case, the individual has memories of a spiritual experience (such as meeting dead friends and family members, entering a tunnel, seeing a white light, meeting God/Source, etc) during the time of actual, or near-death. Ultimately, nearly all NDEs are life-changing and positively transformational in nature.
What is an Extraordinary Experience?
Extraordinary experiences are those which occur outside of time, space, and our ordinary five senses. Experiencers universally refer to the phenomena they experience as "more real than real." The most impactful aspect of such experiences are the positive and permanently life-transforming after-effects on emotional, physiological, and psycho-social levels. Examples of such phenomenon include, but are not limited to near-death and out-of-body experiences, past-life recall, paranormal and psi phenomena, interaction with non-human intelligent beings, kundalini awakening, telepathy, mediumship, etc. Numerous experiences occur during a fully awakened conscious state. Yet, others, such as precognition, and astral travel, and even past-life recall, are common in the dream state. Regardless of one's state of consciousness, inexplicable and spontaneous healing may occur either during or after, such experiences. Healing may be physical, emotional, or phobic in nature. Such experiences alter one's understanding and view of life/humanity forever. These changes transform one's values, beliefs, and relationships with others. Experiencers become more compassionate, self-confident, develop a greater appreciation of life, an increased belief in the after-life, less materialistic, and generally, describe themselves as less religious and more spiritual.
Why do some people have extraordinary experiences while others do not?
Everyone is capable of having non-ordinary experiences. However, certain individuals are more prone to have them. Why is this? There are several factors. One of the greatest blocks to experiencing extraordinary phenomena is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing control. Fear of challenging one's religious beliefs. Fear dissipates when one understands that we are non-physical, spiritual beings contained in a physical body, in order to grow and learn via everyday, human experiences. Yet, to some of us, these experiences are common and life-long occurrences. Research has found that certain individuals have an experiencer-prone personality, in addition to environmental commonalities in early childhood. Most were raised in abusive environments, and are victims of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Others suffered a particularly traumatic event(s) during childhood (accidents, injuries, illnesses, and/or emotional or psychological shock. The majority are susceptible to experience non-pathological (within normal bounds) alternative realities and mild dissociation. An example of mild dissociation is "zoning out" while driving on the highway: daydreaming while completely unaware one has passed five exits without crashing! Experience-prone personality traits include intelligence, imaginativeness, assertiveness, forthrightness, venturesomeness, self-assuredness, and self-sufficiency. Additionally, they demonstrate an inclination to be creative, curious, insightful, incorruptible, iconoclastic, non-conforming, and anti-authoritarian.
Am I crazy?
No! Tradition science and medicine insist that extraordinary experiences are not real. Very few have had experiences themselves! Thus, they tend to insist experiencers are hallucinating, have pathological dissociation, or false memories. Admitting the validity of such phenomena would require admitting that consciousness functions independently of the brain. As a whole, science and medicine are yet unwilling/unable to do this. It is hard enough to process/integrate a new experience without the added stress, judgment, and non-acceptance of others (most frequently physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists). We begin to question ourselves. Was the experience real? Am I hallucinating? Why won't anyone believe me? Am I crazy? It is especially difficult when family members invalidate or judge our experiences; out of fear, disbelief, inadequate knowledge, or religious
Lynn Miller explains her personal family experience:
"Several years ago, I was reading Adventures in the Afterlife, by William Buhlman. Evidently, my sanctimonious brother did not approve of my reading material. I was just finishing a chapter, when BAM, he hurled his Bible at me, narrowly missing my head. He told me, in no uncertain terms, “You are committing blasphemy against God. The Bible states that we are not allowed to know about the afterlife, thus, you are going to Hell. You need to start reading the Bible”.
A friend of Barbara's endured severe emotional trauma following a near-death experience:
Awakening in the hospital, she excitedly told her physician,"I talked to God!" The next time she awoke was in the hospital's psych ward. She had been involuntarily admitted due to her "psychotic episode."
Barbara's personal experiences have also been judged and invalidated Family members have told her she has an overactive imagination, does not remember reality, in the same way, the rest of us do, and nicknamed "Sarah Bernhardt." Bernhardt, a famous French, 19th-century actress, was known for her exaggerated, over the top theatrics. In fact, she kept a satin-lined coffin in her bedroom, and occasionally slept in it or lay in it to study her roles. Not exactly "normal behavior!" However, this does not imply she was crazy.
Please believe in yourself and your ability to determine reality from unreality. You are not alone. Even if friends and or family members are unsupportive or disbelieving, there are numerous communities, resources, and support groups to help individuals understand, accept, and integrate such experiences. These may be found on our "links" page.
What is the difference between an OBE and Astral Projection?
A question that is often asked is what the difference between Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs) is and Astral Projection (AP). Most often they are used interchangeably. I will always prefer the term OBE. Astral Projection is a type of OBE, but it pertains to the “Astral Plane.”
Depending on the source of information the names and the descriptions of the planes vary. Some may refer them as the 7 planes of existence to include: The physical, astral, causal, akashic, mental, messianic, and buddhaic planes. Other sources refer to them as dimensions. Jurgen Ziewe describes them as being subdivided into six dimensions: physical, Earth-like, intermediate, higher, heaven, and pure reality. Not only does he describe these six dimensions but in his model parallel universes also exist that become assessable through consciousness.
I have often been in the ethereal plane. Which is the plain closest to the body. This is often where contact with other beings and where healing of the physical body often occurs. Most of my journeys are in the astral where I have visited other worlds and amazing places.
Reincarnation is a religious concept that the essence or "soul" of an individual begins life in a different physical body after death. Reincarnation is also referred to as rebirth or transmigration of the soul. It is the main tenant of Eastern religions including Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism.
Past-life Memories (PLM) Are memories most frequently retrieved under a particular type of hypnosis termed Past-life Regression Therapy (PLRT). Some individuals however are able to remember a past life spontaneously while in a fully conscious state. Research demonstrates that PLMs are ultimately healing on physical, psychological, and spiritual levels. Many issues in our current incarnation are tied to a particular past life. For instance, if an individual fears water in his current incarnation, perhaps he drowned in a previous life. Once the association between the past-life drowning and the current fear of water is made, the instantaneous release of that fear may follow. Thus, PLM(s) may enable healing on psychological, physical, and spiritual levels in as little as one session.
Past life recall has a “cinematic” feel. Imagine you are an audience member watching an intensely emotional movie. The film is a “biography” of your life, occurring in another time and place-the intense portrayal of a life once lived, featuring the emotional scars, the fears, and complexities of that particular life. The movie ends. You leave the theater-deeply affected by both the film and performances-touched to the very core of your being.
Carol Bowman, therapist, and past-life researcher describes past-life regression as:
"An amazing, full-sensory experience. You might experience the memory as a vivid movie or see only vague flashes of images that prompt the narrative. You might hear gunshots or explosions on a battlefield or music at a dance. It is possible to recall smells too: smoke from a fire, leather from a saddle, or the sweat of a dirty body. As the story unfolds, you feel real emotions appropriate to the story. You may cry when you re-experience deep sadness at the death of a beloved child, feel despair in the pit of your stomach as you witness a massacre, or elation at a long-awaited homecoming from war. And just as you can recall strong emotions, you feel the pain of an arrow piercing your body as you are dying, or the heaviness of a load you’re carrying on your back. These physical sensations and emotions are very real at the moment, but pass quickly as you move through the past life story and death".